Amazing Kids! Magazine

A Break in Mike’s Routine

By Ryan Traynor, Contributing Writer


Mike felt at the top of his game. The basketball was an extension of his arm as he shifted from one side to the other, pulling the ball with him to the other hand. He glanced around the gym floor to find an opening. Suddenly to his right, he saw a direct path to the basket as if the sea of players had parted for him to make his run. After a couple of bounces of the ball as he ran, he felt his muscles propelling him into the air. Arm extended, the ball balanced on his fingertips as his eyes remained glue to the rim. He heard the musical “swoosh” of the ball going through the net and glanced up again to see the ball coming down onto his head. His mistake was trying to shield his head as he went down. Throwing himself off balance, he caught the edge of his foot and he felt his ankle snap to the side. A streak of pain ran up his leg as he tumbled to the ground. Mike tried to shake it off, but the pain became more intense as he tried to stand up and put weight on it. Returning to the ground, he heard the whistles blow as the referees called a halt to the game due to injury. He knew it would be bad. He had sprained his ankle before, but this pain was sharper and deeper, as if something deep inside his leg was screaming for help. He nodded to his coach and let them carry him off the court. After minutes with his leg on ice, the increasing width told everyone that he needed to go to the hospital.

Mike tried to be as brave as he could be as they set his leg. They said the pressure on his leg as his ankle turned, caused a fracture in his fibula, the outer bone in his leg. They mentioned that he needed to be in a cast for six months and then a heavy boot as his bone mended. He placed his head in his hands as he watched his dreams of a successful season in basketball go up in smoke.

Six months later Mike found himself tapping his fingers on his leg, as he was so excited to get his cast off. He had used a ruler for the last 3 weeks to scratch his leg inside as it healed. With the cast off, he could jump right back into his sports again. He grasped the arms of the waiting room chair and literally jumped out of his chair when his name was called. When the final pieces of the cast were pulled off, he pushed up out of the chair. His injured leg felt like a lump of cement, as it couldn’t support his weight. He found himself on the floor, smelling the ammonium from the doctor’s office tiles. It was only after a twenty-minute lecture from the doctor that he realized that the muscles in his leg had deteriorated during the time his leg had been in the cast. In addition to being in a boot for 2 months, Mike would have to undergo physical therapy so that he could regain the strength in his leg. During this time, he was not allowed to participate in any sports.

For the next two days Mike sat is his room, feeling like a balloon that had all its air deflated. He could not even get his will up enough to go down to dinner, much less consider physical therapy. He lay on his bed, ipod headphones to his ears, and tried to let the disappointment go but it seemed to linger around him like a dark cloud.
“Mike, it’s time to go NOW,” he heard his mom yell for the third time that morning. He pulled up his leg to swing it over the bed. He muttered under his breath as he struggled to get down the stairs. He was not looking forward to his first day of physical therapy. He had hoped to spend his summer hanging out with his friends and playing volleyball on the beach. Now he would have to spend an hour, three times a week, in the hospital’s rehab pool to regain his strength. They thought he would recover nicely if he put in the effort, but the thought of his lost summer just seemed to zap any strength Mike had to do what they wanted.

He sat on the bench in the shower room after putting on his swimsuit and glanced down at his leg. It seemed half the size of the other leg. Not only would he not be as strong as his friends, but he felt as if he’d be a freak with two differently sized legs. He just wanted to spend the summer inside his room, where no one would see him.
Suddenly there, across the room, a man was wheeled through the door. His wheelchair was heavy, with a full neck cushion and thick cushions behind the legs. He did not move at all, and Mike noticed that even his head seemed cemented in place except for a little movement back and forth as the motion of the wheels swayed him from side to side. Although there were no wrinkles around his eyes, there was hollowness behind his eyes, as if he had been straining for years to find something. His legs and arms were thin and lifeless, but his face seemed full of emotion, like a kid awaiting his birthday party.

Mike found he could not look at the man. He purposely looked to the other side of the room, pretending he was not there. The sound of the wheels on the tile floor made a squeaking sound as he moved his way out the door towards the pool. Mike looked in the mirror at the reflection of the man and couldn’t take his eyes off of him. Only when the man looked his way and smiled, did Mike quickly move his gaze back to his bag. He grabbed it and followed the man out to the pool.

The moment Mike looked at the pool, instead of his usual excitement to jump in and do a cannonball, he took two steps backward. He knew the grueling weeks ahead would be torture for him and he did not want to begin. He stood there like a statue with a look of stubbornness on his face as he refused to go in the water.

Off to the other side of the pool he was caught off guard by the sight of two men helping the man in the wheelchair move to a special chair. They lifted him as if he was only 50 pounds. The new chair was put in an elevator contraption and he was slowly lowered down into the water. Mike’s gaze was transfixed upon the man, for instead of the stubbornness that he showed, the man had a genuine smile on his face. As he was lowered into the water, the smile got broader and broader until it seemed like his face glowed. They had attached some type of floatation device to his arms, which allowed his arms to skim the water freely and weights had been placed around his ankles to help his legs stay down in the water. As if by a miracle, the man was able to rise up out of the chair and slowly, with the assistance of his rehabilitation team, begin to walk. You could see the set in his brow as he worked diligently to rhythmically raise one knee and then the other. The freedom of movement was like a young bird learning to fly – at first he fluttered and then, as if sensing the great ability he’d been given in the water, he grasped onto his newfound power and went full force. Mike watched as he progressed on to stepping up onto stairs and even doing a little bit of backstroke.

Mike inched closer to the water’s edge. His physical therapist waited patiently for him, as if secretly knowing the inner turmoil he was feeling. Finally Mike moved with resolve, realizing that if this man could work so hard to get better, then he could too. He lowered himself into the water and grabbed onto the edge of the pool. No longer was he self-conscious about his leg. He knew with a little work, he would be back to normal. This man had taught him that he should appreciate the gifts he had been given.

Mike glanced over to the man who now was resting on a shallow step. He lifted his hand slightly out of the water to give him a “thumbs-up” sign and an encouraging smile. Mike waved back and then pushed off the edge, determined to complete at least ten laps today. He knew he had found a workout partner. Together, they would work to get better. Hopefully someday soon, he could be the light of encouragement when it was needed by someone else.

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